Science & Technology

Twitter Insiders Fear Elon Musk Heralds a Troll Takeover

Jon Bell, a designer who beforehand labored on Twitter’s anti-abuse crew, says weakening Twitter’s moderation can be a mistake. Outsiders—together with Bell earlier than he joined the corporate—usually don’t understand how a lot work it takes to stop the location from being overrun by poisonous content material, he says. Though Twitter has been criticized for not doing sufficient to comprise abuse and harassment, it has developed instruments and processes that considerably cut back the quantity, Bell says. “Every little thing Musk is speaking about would undo that.”

In 2016, Twitter established a council of impartial organizations to offer recommendation on on-line security. Alex Holmes, deputy CEO of UK nonprofit the Diana Award, which is a member of the council, says he’s now uncertain how that work can proceed. “Understandably, there are considerations about how this might be potential if freedom of speech is prioritized to a detrimental extent,” he says. Holmes says he has heard related considerations from Twitter staff.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, a nonprofit that promotes LGBTQ rights and can be on Twitter’s advisory council, tweeted Monday that Musk’s possession made her “nervous for the web security of the LGBTQ neighborhood.”

To imagine Musk would get up for girls and others focused on the platform can be “silly,” says Brianna Wu, a recreation developer and software program engineer who was in touch with Twitter’s Belief and Security crew till 2020, after being focused with abuse in the course of the marketing campaign of on-line harassment often called Gamergate in 2014. “He’s a billionaire model of the alt-right troll.”

After Twitter took motion in opposition to her trolls, Wu continued to doc harassment on the platform, notably in opposition to ladies and members of marginalized communities, to share with Twitter.

Wu mentioned she by no means received the sense that Twitter’s Belief and Security crew made choices motivated by politics, a declare levied on the platform by a few of its critics. “That they had a model of their product that was unhealthy for customers, and it was in good religion that they have been making an attempt to determine tips on how to make it higher,” says Wu.

By taking the corporate personal, Musk would additionally get rid of the accountability {that a} board and shareholders can carry to a publicly traded firm. Activist traders have beforehand filed resolutions to aim to push Twitter, and different social media firms, in the direction of goals like extra sturdy moderation insurance policies and extra environmentally pleasant operations.

Andrew Behar, CEO of the nonprofit As You Sow, which represents a bunch of activist Twitter shareholders, says Twitter underneath Musk will doubtless look quite a bit like Meta (previously Fb) underneath Mark Zuckerberg.

“You will have one individual in cost. Mark Zuckerberg makes all the selections. It doesn’t matter what decision you file, he owns a ten to 1 voting desire,” says Behar. “There’s quite a lot of hazard when you could have all that energy remoted in a single individual like Zuckerberg. Now we have that with Twitter.”

Natasha Lamb, managing associate at Arjuna Capital, a boutique funding agency that owns Twitter shares, says she worries that even when Musk owns Twitter, it gained’t have his full consideration. “Twitter is just too essential to be a pastime,” she says.

Lamb mentioned Arjuna isn’t prone to vote in favor of the acquisition. “I feel he is an excellent engineer,” she says. “I am undecided he is a civil rights professional. I do not assume he is an professional on free speech.”


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